The public library in Moorestown, New Jersey has an admirable motto: “We confirm all things twice.” After the unveiling of their new building this week, the staff there is probably wishing they’d lived up to those words.
The designs for the building included a Latin translation of the library’s motto, carved into two stone medallions on the building. Unfortunately, the translation was hopelessly wrong, and nobody bothered to confirm it even once. The error wasn’t uncovered until after the building was complete and the motto was quite literally carved in stone. In the words of the great philosopher Homer J. Simpson: “D’oh!”
The translation used on the library walls was “‘nos secundus coniecto omnia,” which Google translates as “We second-guess all” and anyone who actually speaks Latin knows is just a jumbled mess.
The building’s designers can’t even blame technology for the error; head architect Rick Ragan admitted in the Daily Mail that the botched translation “was attempted by a staff member who looked through a Latin dictionary.”
“We’ve looked at the definition of the words. It says that the verb says, ‘think, include, conclude, judge and confirm. But Google’s version, and I’m old enough to admit that I’ve never translated anything on Google or conjugated (anything). Their version is that ‘We all second-guess.”
The Daily Mail also has an excellent breakdown of all the things wrong with the translation:
“While ‘nos’ can mean ‘we’, it is in fact unnecessary because verbs in Latin contain who is doing them in the way the word ends. Coniecto – the verb in the sentence – in fact means ‘I conclude’ or ‘I guess’. The ‘we’ form would be ‘coniectamus’. Likewise, ‘secundus’ is an adjective meaning ‘second’, but even in conjunction with a verb meaning guess, does not mean ‘second-guess’. The correct way to render ‘we confirm all things twice’ would be ‘bis verificamus omnia‘.”
Ragan’s firm will now be paying for stonecutter to fix the medallions, as well as to correct some missing Roman numerals on other parts of the facade. A quick phone call to the nearest Latin professor would have saved them quite a bit of trouble and embarrassment.
If you’re thinking of translating any of your business communications by “looking through a dictionary,” stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $100. Call us and get your message properly translated!